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We’re having a scrap art pool party, and YOU’RE invited! Don’t you want to just dive right into our vibrant pool art?! This summer art project is full of simple little visual art tricks that make the most of scrap supplies, and whimsical details that capture the joy of fun in sun. But most importantly, the whole project is an invitation to let your imagination run wild and let your little ones get creative designing their very own dream pool party out of paper and other recycled supplies.
There’s an incredibly simple little art trick to making your paper pool come to life, and it’s ALL about creating that illusion of water moving over tile that screams “summer pool”. It’s an easy mark-making exercise for kids, and a great little visual lesson for them to tuck away in their tool bag. And it’s SO effective! I swear I can hear the distant sounds of water splashing, diving boards bouncing, and the happy squeals of little swimmers.
Every detail of this is customizable to your own little artist’s preferences and imaginative whims. Cut your pool into a fun shape. Add 3-D elements as we did above with the foliage and flamingo pool floaty. Rather than recreating the exact scenes I’ve made here, this is all about designing your OWN dream pool.
Once you’ve got a pool, you can decide whether this will be a summery self-portrait or a full pool of floating friends. Or maybe your pool party is for animals..? Or your pool is full of cool, custom-doodled donuts and popsicles and rubber duck floats…? YOUR pool party, YOUR choice!
The little sunbathers in this art project provide a great opportunity to turn scrap fabrics into collage-style, custom-designed bathing suits (you can also use paper scraps instead, draw or color on your own suits, hairstyles, faces, or add other decorative touches with your own favorite art supplies).
For more summer scrap art, make this pool art 3D with a recycled miniature swimming pool you can fill with actual water! Add a set of scrape-paint surfboards, a beachy recycled love shack, or a group of cardboard sailboats that cleverly convey a secret message.
For your own DIY paper pool art you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- A sheet of blue construction paper or cardstock
- Scrap fabric or paper in assorted colors and patterns (I like finding fun fabric remnants or paper scraps on Etsy!)
- A white oil pastel, crayon, or colored pencil
- Lids, corrugated cardboard scraps, cereal box squares, or similar for the pool floats
- Drawing, coloring, and mark-making supplies (crayons, markers, watercolors, etc.)
- A glue stick
- Our Printable Paper People Templates and a sheet of cardstock
- Air-dry clay and tempera or acrylic paints
- Stickers or other decorative craft items
DIY Kids Pool Art Instructions:
- Create your paper pool background
To make a simple but effective pool background, you’re going to draw a wobbly grid that gives the illusion of water moving over a tiled surface (doesn’t it look so realistic!?).
Using a white oil pastel or crayon, draw wobbly lines all the way across your paper lengthwise. They can be evenly spaced like ours, but moving water creates incredibly interesting textures and patterns, so let loose and experiment with what looks right to you!
Once finished with the lengthwise marks, turn your paper and draw a similar series of wobbly lines from top to bottom.
Tip: Don’t have a white oil pastel, crayon, or colored pencil handy? You can experiment with using ANY color! Or pick a color of blue that’s a couple of shades darker than your paper – it creates the same illusion, just a different look.
- Gather supplies for your pool floats
We cut a few of our pool floats from cardboard (corrugated cardboard REALLY has that classic pool float vibe!) but there are so many household items you can recycle to use in your artwork. Plastic container tops and metal jar lids are a particularly great size and shape.
You can paint things as we did, flip them to an unprinted side, or just leave them be (the printing sometimes actually makes them look even more authentic!).
- Print or draw, cut out and decorate your sunbathers or swimmers
It’s time to add some life to this pool party! We have a printable set of people templates you can download and print, OR you can simply draw your own pool partiers!
Design your own swimsuits from cut-out scrap paper or fabric pieces.
My best tip for this step is that small hands have an easier go of it with BIGGER people and pieces. If trying a variation on this with younger kids, you might find it easier to use larger people, stickers, larger precut decoration pieces, or just let them doodle and scrawl on the people freely!
- Create a composition and glue
So now you have your pool background, your people/person, and pool floats. Try laying them out in different compositions to see what looks best to you. Once you’ve found a favorite, use a glue stick to glue everything down.
For our second piece, we glued the pool to a painted cardboard background and used a hot glue gun to glue the 3D pieces of our project onto the paper and cardboard. We made a simple hook out of a paperclip and hot glued it to the back so we could hang the whole project on the wall. The three-dimensional elements make this especially fun to look at from all angles!
Other ways to make, use, and play with this kids pool art theme
- USE CLAY INSTEAD OF PAPER FOR YOUR POOL PARTIERS. A fun variation on this would be to use air-dry clay and paints to make miniature clay pool floats, and pool party people. How fun would it be to see little sets of painted clay legs popping out of the water? Or make a clay diving board and experiment with creating the illusion of a splash out of clay!
- CREATE POOL FLOAT PLAYDOUGH MATS. Instead of creating paper artwork pieces, younger kiddos might enjoy a chance to dig into the sensory side of this project while also working on a bit of design exploration. Visit the simple tutorial to make your own quick DIY summer swim playdough invitation here!
- MAKE COLLABORATIVE SUMMER POOL ART. Thinking this might be a perfect end-of-school-year classroom project or bulletin board? This project has so many wonderful collaborative opportunities! You can create a huge pool background on a roll of blue kraft paper, then invite your students to make their own summer pool self-portraits.
Pool Art Inspiration
So you’ve got the idea, but need a little pool art inspiration…? Three of my VERY favorite artists have featured pool visual themes in their own work. If you ever get a chance to see any of these works in person, be sure to take your little ones, because there is nothing like seeing them up close! And behind each of these series’ is a deeper message to explore – taking some time to look at these pieces can be a great way to initiate important conversations with kids.
For more summer-themed paper art, visit our invitation to build a (moving!) paper playground, create gorgeously bright rainbow road abstract art, or experiment with textures to make your own cardboard fold-out secret garden.
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!